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WILPF Regional European Meeting in Brussels

25 April 2016
On 3-5 March 2016, a group of WILPF members met informally in Brussels. Photo credit: WILPF.
On 3-5 March 2016, a group of WILPF members met informally in Brussels. Photo credit: WILPF.

On 3-5 March 2016, a group of WILPF members from 11 European countries met informally in Brussels to discuss the situation for women in Europe. The group was joined by representatives from WILPF Lebanon and the WILPF initiative Women Organising for Change in Syria and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The first part of the meeting focused on the political and practical impact of the wars in Syria and Iraq on refugees and European hosts. Keywords such as fear, growing racism, new walls and fences, lack of cohesive European politics and limitations for refugees were used by the participants to describe the current situation in Europe. As part of this discussion, the WILPF representatives called on members of the European Parliament to support the Report on the situation of women refugees and asylum seekers in the EU (2015/2325) and to vote in favour of the respective parliamentary resolution.

WILPF’s Human Rights Programme Director María Muñoz Maraver joined the Brussels meeting and shared insights to trade agreements from a human rights perspective. She presented the Treaty Alliance, an alliance of civil society organisations working to develop a binding international treaty to stop human rights abuses by corporations.

Also addressed was the topic of climate change and participants from the WILPF delegation to the climate conference COP21 in Paris reported on their experiences. Looking forward to COP22 in Marrakech, the discussion highlighted the need to mainstream gender in the climate debate.

The meeting concluded with the following impressions of the situation for women in Europe:

  • The situation has to be seen in the context of climate change and scarce natural resources.
  • The introduction of new European border controls has created an unacceptable humanitarian outrage, where people fleeing from war are humiliated and blocked from reaching safety.
  • States across Europe are developing closed border militarised responses.
  • The Arms Trade is being further expanded and militias and private, unaccountable “Security Guards” are receiving arms from outside the EU as well as from national governments. The funders need to be identified.
  • International Protective Regulation is being challenged by states and weakened or replaced by “Voluntary adoption of standards” called “The Ruggie Principles”, which are not binding and “soft” European agreements.
  • The financial crisis is creating a fear of “The Other.” This is being encouraged by the media as a Culture of Fear.
  • The politics of fear is driving new right alliances, with resulting xenophobia, and racism evident locally and nationally. This is impacting women’s rights.
  • Climate justice is not taken seriously by many states and there seems to be inadequate planning for climate refugees as crops fail and there are water shortages and/or floods.
  • The Sustainable Development Goals seem to be ignored in the face of immediate examples of inequality from the impact of the conflicts in the Middle East.
  • There is confusion about ethical and legal liability for “extraterritorial” traders – including the extractive and arms industries, with multi-national companies refusing responsibility for the impact of their product on any one population outside the nation of product origin.
  • Women suffer from disregard of their human rights in workplace situations and as refugees seeking safe asylum.

A summary of the deliberations can be found here.

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Melissa Torres


Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani


Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo


Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

IPB Congress Barcelona

WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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